Vice President Harris Says World at ‘A Decisive Moment in History’ Ahead of Imminent Invasion of Ukraine
MUNICH — Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday that the world has arrived at “a decisive moment in history” as the Biden administration warns a Russian invasion of Ukraine in the coming days is highly likely.
During a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Harris vowed that the U.S. was committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty. The vice president also used an address at the conference to reiterate the Biden administration’s promise to hit Russia with economy-jarring sanctions if it invades Ukraine again, following the 2014 seizure of Crimea.
“Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty: If Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant and unprecedented economic costs,” Harris said.
Harris addressed the annual Munich conference the day after President Joe Biden said he was “convinced” that Russia’s Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade neighboring Ukraine.
Harris made the case to a largely European audience that the West has “strength through unity” and that an invasion would likely lead to an even bigger NATO presence on Russia’s doorstep.
Later, at the start of the meeting with Ukraine’s leader, Harris called it “a decisive moment in history” and told Zelenskyy, “Any threat to your country we take seriously.”
He responded: “We clearly understand what is going on. This is our country. We want peace.”
He said he needs Western allies to take “specific steps,” alluding to Ukraine’s requests for even more military and economic assistance. Zelenskyy also noted that with Russian troops at his country’s borders, Ukraine’s army is in fact “defending all of Europe.”
Harris herself remarked about the perilousness of the moment in her address at the conference, noting that “not since the end of the Cold War has this forum convened under such dire circumstances.”
“Today, as we are all well aware, the foundation of European security is under direct threat in Ukraine,” she said.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and fomented a rebellion in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for almost eight years. Russia’s seizure and control of Crimea was previously approved by the United States and European Union.
Western fears of an invasion have escalated in recent months as Russia amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
Harris claimed that while the Biden Administration and its allies had attempted to negotiate with Moscow to resolve the conflict diplomatically, the Kremlin did not respond to their efforts.
“Russia continues to say it is ready to talk while at the same time it narrows the avenues for diplomacy,” Harris said. “Their actions simply do not match their words.”
Harris acknowledged European allies’ ability to speak with one voice during the current Ukraine crisis. The vice president said Republicans and Democrats in Washington — who rarely agree on major issues — are generally in agreement on the necessity of confronting Putin.
“We didn’t all start out in the same place,” Harris said. “We came together and are now speaking with a unified voice. And that voice was a function of not only dialogue and debate, some concessions, but also the practical realization of the moment that we are in, which is that we are looking at a sovereign nation that may very well be on the verge of being invaded yet again.”
Harris met Friday in Munich with representatives of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and stressed the necessity for a greater U.S. presence at NATO’s Eastern Edge.
Although the White House has yet to confirm whether they will comply with those requests, Harris said in Saturday’s address that an invasion might lead to a strengthened American presence.
“The imposition of these sweeping and coordinated measures will inflict great damage on those who must be held accountable. And we will not stop with economic measures,” Harris said. “We will further reinforce our NATO allies on the eastern flank.”
Biden, and other U.S. officials, have been warning in a more dire way that there is little time for diplomacy.
Biden said Friday to reporters that Putin had decided to invade Ukraine in the next days. He could take military action that would go beyond eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas and even include Kyiv as the capital.
The vice president also met on Saturday with Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Biden has vowed that the Nord Stream 2 Russia to Germany gas pipeline would be stopped if Russia invades further Ukraine.